A local Savage student was honored in the nation's capital last week during the 23rd annual presentation of The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards for his volunteer service.
Shrey Pothini, 14, was honored April 28 alongside another Minnesotan, Ryan Guggenheim, 18, of St. Paul, and 100 other top youth volunteers from across the country. Each received $1,000 awards and personal congratulations from Olympic gold medalist and Wold Cup champion Lindsey Vonn at an award ceremony and gala dinner reception hall at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, named Pothini and Guggenheim Minnesota's top middle school and high school level youth volunteers in February. In addition to their cash awards, they each received an engraved silver medallion and an all-expense paid trip with a parent to Washington, D.C. for four days of recognition events.
Pothini, an eighth-grader at Eagle Ridge Middle School, has organized an annual citywide day of service, Service Day Saturday, for the past few years to mobilize community members to help others. Pothini has been passionate about community service ever since he collected new bath towels for a local homeless youth shelter when he was 5 years old, according to a news release. That effort led him to start a service club at his school, and then to encourage volunteerism throughout his entire city.
“I wanted children and families in my city to be exposed to the needs in our community and learn how to make a difference while having fun,” Pothini said.
Guggenheim, a senior at Mounds Park Academy, helps provide dental care in impoverished communities in Guatemala by serving as a youth ambassador for the Open Wide Foundation and raising awareness and money to fund scholarships for dental students who want to volunteer there. Guggenheim began his volunteering at Minnesota Children’s Hospital because of an interest in medicine.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program was created in 1995 to identify and recognize young people for outstanding volunteer service — and, in doing so, inspire others to volunteer, too. In the past 23 years, the program has honored more than 120,000 young volunteers at the local, state and national level.